We’re Back….and Money Lessons from Mexico

Look how sober we look!

Look how sober we look!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I found a pretty bangin’ Expedia deal for me and my friends to stay at an all-inclusive resort in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico for about $800 smackaroos each.  We went, we had fun, and we conquered.  Unfortunately, part of the cheap package included pretty crappy flights for our trip.  In fact, we actually had two separate layovers on our way home.  Our first plane also left at 1:55 a.m. which meant that I spent a good part of Sunday morning sleeping on an airport floor in Mexico City.  Yuck.

So, I didn’t really sleep much these last few days and we’re both pretty exhausted.  And in addition to having a little big of jet lag, I’ve got another condition a’brewin as well. What is it, you ask?  Spending remorse.  I’m sad to say that we went over our vacation budget by about $300. I’ve been analyzing the situation for a while now to see exactly where we got off track.  After all, we did budget $400 in spending money for transportation, gifts, and tips.  We also stayed in an all-inclusive hotel which means that there really is no reason to have wasted so much money.  Still, in order to learn from my mistakes, I must acknowledge them first.  Am I right?

My Vacation Budget Meltdown

5th Avenue, Playa del Carmen

5th Avenue, Playa del Carmen

On our second day, the four of us (my best friend, her husband, Greg, and I) decided to venture out of the resort into the town of Playa del Carmen.  We had only had a few drinks by that point and we really wanted to eat some authentic food and do some souvenir shopping.  That was, of course, until we saw just how cool Playa del Carmen is.  It reminded me a lot of Bourbon St. in New Orleans, except for the fact that it was much, much cleaner.  In addition to shops, the town’s main tourist district is filled with fancy restaurants, bars, and all kinds of cool people and things.  After walking around for a while, we decided to eat dinner at Imprevist, a restaurant which has gotten excellent reviews on trip advisor.  In addition to having an excellent meal, they also had BOGO drinks going on.  That’s where this all went down hill.

Alcohol Fueled Reckless Spending

All of a sudden, two mojitos turned into five.  After some wandering, we ended up at some bar called “El Santo Remedio” on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen.  Even though we could drink for “free” at the resort, we had completely lost track of that fact and were spending cash like it was going out of style.  But by that point it didn’t matter anymore.  We started taking shots and I bought several bracelets and things from basically any street vendor that approached me.  After more drinks, we petted someone’s monkey and I had a wrestling match with my best friend.  Oh, and I’m pretty sure I cried and told Greg that I thought it was my destiny to adopt a Mexican baby (we saw so many adorable babies!!!)

DSCF2358Anyways, let’s face it.  We were drunk.  And worse than that, we blew $200 in one night!  I simply cannot remember the last time that we wasted so much money in one fell swoop.  It sucks, and I’m mad at myself.

After that, we reigned in our spending quite a bit.  However, we still managed to go over budget another $100.  So, what money lessons did we learn from all of this?  I learned that alcohol and responsible financial decisions don’t mix that well for us.  And next time, we’re going to plan ahead a little better and make sure that we don’t waste so much money unnecessarily.  Of course, $200 isn’t that much money and I know that some people waste money like that every weekend.  Still, I know better and I don’t want to make that mistake again.

I'm not sure who won, but I think we both thought we were Power Rangers.

I’m not sure who won, but I think we both thought we were Power Rangers.

Have you ever made a bad financial decision or wasted money and regretted it?  If so, what money lessons did you learn?












About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.


  1. I’ve definitely had nights like that where money seemed to have no limit until the next day, when your head isn’t the only thing that hurts. It’s not a fun guilty feeling. But you learn and figure out a way to do things a little better next time. Maybe for something like this, you bring a certain amount of cash along and limit yourself to that.

    Glad to hear you guys had fun!
    Matt Becker recently posted..What is a Budget?My Profile

  2. Playa del Carmen! How I miss you! Your pictures take me back to our vacation there last year. Which resort did you stay at? We were at the Grand Sunset Princess.

    Even though Mexico trips are usually all inclusive, you can still BLOW through your money if you aren’t careful. All those excursions and cool trips you can take. They will really add up if you take on too many at a time.

    I remember those wrestler masks in all the shops. They kinda creeped me out ….
    My Money Design recently posted..Motivation In the Workplace and My Thoughts on Mind ControlMy Profile

  3. Man – you guys are always on vacation!
    I think most people have spending regret – particularly when it is alcohol fueled. It is so easy to spend the money, but far harder to save it :(

    Your photos look great and you look like you had a great time :)
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..Super Cheap Hobbies For People On A BudgetMy Profile

  4. The last time I had a–lets say alcohol–fueled weekend it was in New York and I remember my friends and I all sitting around eating breakfast Sunday morning when all of us received a call from our banks. The banks thought our debit cards had been stolen because they were all used on multiple ATMs throughout the night in a pattern consistent with thievery. So I will not be doing any of that again.
    Snarkfinance recently posted..Good Debt vs. Bad DebtMy Profile

  5. Even though you went over your budget looks like you had an awesome time! I have gone over my spending budget on multiple occasions – casino trips, vacations, etc. And yes, alcohol and staying in your budget do not mix!
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..5 Ways Young Professionals can Take Control of their CareerMy Profile

  6. Like DC said, although you went over budget it does look like you had a great time! We almost always go over budget on vacation, but when we’re the opposite way the rest of the time it all balances out in my opinion. That said, I think I’ll be re-reading this post in a few months before we go to Vegas. ;)
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..Things I Would Never Do: Pay An Employee With a Prepaid Debit CardMy Profile

  7. I think sometimes the memories from those crazy nights either on vacation or out with friends are sometimes worth the spending a little extra. I bet you have some great memories!

  8. As soon as I saw the title i was like I wonder how much alcohol was consumed. I have made some bad decisions and some were done when I was drinking of course. For the most part now though my bad decisions have always come with lending people money. I have learned my lessons and don’t allow people to borrow money. When I give I give what I can afford to not get back. Glad you had a blast in Mexico and I need to head on a vacation soon as well.
    Thomas | Your Daily Finance recently posted..How to Curb Impulse Buying HabitsMy Profile

  9. Glad to know you guys had fun together and good time even though it was beyond your set budget. It is ok you can learn from this trip and take care next time and try to stick to your budget. By the way pics are awesome…….
    Rita P @ Digital Spikes recently posted..How to save money with couponsMy Profile

  10. LOL, yes, you blew your budget, but you had fun and learned a great lesson. Glad you had a good time. Just remember to party inside the all-inclusive resort next time. :-)
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..Do You Share the Habits of the Wealthy? Good Reads for the Week Ending 7/26/13My Profile

  11. Drinking definitely makes it easier to go over budget! It sounds like you had a lot of fun, so hopefully you’re not too remorseful! I hope your budget isn’t too damaged.
    Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter recently posted..Four Weekend Activities that will Rock Your Financial WorldMy Profile

  12. We’ve gone over budget before on a vacation but it’s usually from shopping or from taking an extra excursion we were not anticipating.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted..When Life Makes It Easier, Push It!My Profile

  13. At least you analyzed why you went over. I have a feeling most people wouldn’t even try to figure it out or learn from it. Now that you know you will have yo come up with a way to prevent it next time!
    Lance @ Adventuring Dollars recently posted..Why I Am Really Glad I Have Short Term DisabilityMy Profile

  14. That sounds like the weekend my husband and I got engaged. We were visiting our old home city and he proposed on the Friday afternoon as soon as we got there. Well, we were on such a high that we basically cash chucked all weekend, justifying our engagement for going about 1/3 over budget on our trip!

    It happens to the best of us. Looks like you had a great time though!
    Jordann @ My Alternate Life recently posted..2013 Goal Check InMy Profile

  15. I feel like the wise sage Homer Simpson has the words of wisdom for this situation:

    “To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

    We are headed to Ireland at the end of September and while I have a healthy budget (and free hotel rooms for the entire time due to credit card churning!), I’m pretty sure I will have a few more pints that I originally planned hanging out with my Irish friends I haven’t seen in a couple of years. So I’m just already coming to terms with spending more than I really want to.

  16. I think most people have some sort of spending regret after vacation. But I try to look at it as ‘hey at least i’m spending on experiences rather than stuff’ (my sad attempt to justify it). I went on my first cruise recently and my alcohol fueled reckless spending was out of control. It’s so easy just to hand over your room card and charge it – you don’t actually realize how much you spend til you get the final bill.
    Connie recently posted..How I Set My Clothing & Beauty BudgetMy Profile

    • I have heard so many people say that they dread their drink bill on a cruise! That’s probably why they have you pay all of your charges at the end…so you lose track and spend more than you planned!

  17. As long as you don’t do this on a regular basis, in your case – the memories are worth it! The Power Rangers picture is hilarious!! Love it!
    KB @ coolfamilylife.com recently posted..Oakville Waterfront Festival!My Profile

  18. I think knowing what happened and not trying to pass the blame onto anyone else is a if part of it. Lesson learned. Hopefully it won’t happen again, though I hope the margaritas were worth it!
    Mrs PoP recently posted..Pimp The PoP’s Garage – Part 1 – PlanningMy Profile

  19. Vacations can be some big money wasters, I’ve had a lot the same issues on my vacations wanting to kick back, relax, and not worry about all the financial obligations. Alcohol can also kill a budget fast as well but I think as long as you plan for it you shouldn’t do just to bad.
    Chris @ Stumble Forward recently posted..How I Review My Budget Each Week – My Simple 3 Step ProcessMy Profile

  20. At least you didn’t buy a monkey! I seem to remember one Vegas trip a few years ago when we ran out of our spending cash and hit up the casino ATM’s. Honestly, alcohol wasn’t even really involved, just the whole casino mentality and not wanting to call an end to the evening because we ran out of cash. Of course we lost all that cash and the ATM fees in Vegas, plus the cash advance fees were incredible. We always lock the credit cards in the safe now when we go to Vegas!
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Pensions and Investments – When Some People Aren’t Ready to Give UpMy Profile

  21. Alcohol and financially responsible decision making do not mix…ahh so true, so true. I tend overspend on vacations too. You guys looked like you had fun. Wouldn’t beat myself over going a little over budget since overspending like this is more of a rare occasion.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted..Changing Your Money Mindset is the KeyMy Profile

  22. Lol Holly! Well, you can put it like this: you spent some extra money for some great memories! And at least you’re not like me: when I get as drunk as you were in Mexico, I start buying everyone drinks and gifts so I always make sure that I only have a limited amount of cash on me and no credit card!
    C. the Romanian recently posted..How I Got My Blog from Zero to 2 Million Visits Per Month and Sold It for Five FiguresMy Profile

    • Yep, pretty much. People kept coming up to me and asking me to buy bracelets. Some of them were carrying their babies around too….cannot say no to that!

  23. I’ve definitely been there. All inclusives are great because you think you won’t spend any money on vacation but if you want to do anything outside of the resort like ziplining or a mini trip to some cool locations, it’s gonna cost ya.
    Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses recently posted..How to Quit Your Job The Right WayMy Profile

  24. I love the pictures! It’s so awesome that you’re so transparent about everything Holly. I think it’s really difficult to try and stay on budget while on vacation. You want to be carefree and enjoy your time away – after all, it doesn’t happen often that you get a kid-free vacation and can go a little crazy.

    For my 21st birthday I actually wanted a 3 day celebration (Fri-Sun) and that was going a little overboard. I’ve also gone over budget with grocery shopping while on vacation. Trying to save money by not going out for every meal, and we end up with too much leftover and a 12 hour car ride back home with no way to freeze the remaining items. That sucked.
    E.M. recently posted..Do You Brown Bag It To Work?My Profile

    • Yes! I have done the same thing!

      Vacation is just tricky because I want to “live in the moment” on vacation and not end up being too cheap and missing out on something fun, you know? I guess it’s all about moderation.

  25. All inclusive resorts are great, but it come back and bite you. There are still extras and entertainment is a big one. It reminds me of cruising, they get you with the excursions.
    krantcents recently posted..Manage your money competently to stay away from debt dilemmasMy Profile

  26. That story is FUNNY! I cracked up about the monkey and possibly adopting a Mexican baby. That’s comedy gold.

    Going over budget sucks and it’s good that you acknowledge it, but at this point it’s a sunk cost so maybe the best thing to do is just get the most mileage you can out of the good memories. Cheers!
    Done by Forty recently posted..Budget PornMy Profile

    • I know its funny but those things really did happen!
      And now that I’m sober I will admit that I STILL want to adopt a Mexican baby. I saw sooooooooooo many adorable babies there!

  27. It is sooo easy to go over budget on vacation! Don’t beat yourself up over it, Holly! It looks like you had a really fun time, and you’ll make it back!

  28. Oooh.. don’t be too hard on yourself :)
    You guys work so hard, its good to reward yourself every once in a while.

  29. Pffft, no one ever feels falsely rich and makes questionable decisions while drunk ;-)
    I hope that you had fun, at least!
    Anne @ Unique Gifter recently posted..Part III of III – More Parent Thank You Gifts for WeddingsMy Profile

  30. Looks like a wonderful trip! Alcohol, such sweet nectar and yet at the root of so many bad decisions.:) Not to be an enabler like Jefferson, (lol!), but it could have been worse. Sadly, I’ve known people who have maxed out credit cards and even had to go home early because they ran out of money.
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..Achieving the Family Save Goal – When in RomeMy Profile

  31. Hehe I am so glad i quit drinking, so nice to get away from the drunken spending! :P
    Ed recently posted..6 Ways To Beat MondayMy Profile

  32. At least this was from an inebriated state and you felt remorse afterward, a lot more spend that much sober and don’t think twice about it. What’s done is done, and it looked like a blast, so onward and upward! :)
    anna recently posted..Liebster AwardMy Profile

  33. Nick @ AYoungPro.com says:

    It’s all about the memories. :) Live and learn!
    Nick @ AYoungPro.com recently posted..Taking the Scenic Route to My Dream JobMy Profile

  34. I don’t see the issue here….? Just budget in “excessive drunk spending in Mexico” as a line item, and you’re good to go. Sounds like about $35 a month should do the trick for next year’s trip :)
    Jacob | iHeartBudgets recently posted..Weekend Money Tip #1My Profile

  35. I have to admit I kind of laughed when I read this. :) Hey you had a good time and you spend a little more than planned. It happens…don’t beat yourself up over it. I went on a shopping spree in Detroit when I was home and that was unplanned. But you just get back on the horse and regroup. “I learned that alcohol and responsible financial decisions don’t mix that well for us.” Of for sure, me too!
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..The Greater ContributionMy Profile

  36. Haha, glad to hear you had a great time. It’s amazing how much money we can spend when we are drunk. Sounds like a good blog post to me… you’ve given me a great idea lol. I thought it was great that you all ventured out of the resort. Personally, I hate resorts and won’t go to them because I just love being free when I travel to do what I want. I guess I was spoiled that way living in the UK when travelling was so cheap. I’ll never see that again living in Canada unless we fly home then out from the UK. Anyhow, glad you are both back in action….
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..Buying my first property: Was I too young?My Profile

  37. You guys look like you had lots of fun regardless of the crappy flights. About the money spent, stuff like that happens sometimes and as long as you are owning it and you are ready to go back to your frugal ways. Nobody stays financially perfect.
    Demaish recently posted..Cashing in on your daughter or sisterMy Profile

  38. I think everyone has had bad spending nights. The key is to learn from them rather than regularly repeating them. It’s like that old proverb: fall down five times, get up six. As long as you get back up, you’re going in the right direction.

    I hope that despite the plane craziness and the spending remorse, you two still had a fantastic time!
    Alex recently posted..Learn from what you fearMy Profile

  39. I’m pretty sure that 95% of my reckless spending and crying both begin and end with alcohol consumption.

    That said, vacations are about enjoying yourself. As long as you didn’t put it on credit, I don’t feel the need to criticize.

  40. We went to Cancun for our honeymoon and had an amazing time. Did you do any ziplining or go into the caves over there? Focus on how much fun you had on the trip and not a couple hundred dollars that you went over budget. Sounds like you got a crazy good deal regardless!
    Daniel recently posted..What Was The Last Thing You Bought In A Store?My Profile

  41. It’s nice to know you have a well-spent vacation, Holly. You should share more pictures!
    Marissa @ Thirty Six Months recently posted..$900 GIVEAWAY: Turkey is blowing my mindMy Profile

  42. Heya now i am initially right here. I found this specific board we to discover It truly useful & that forced me to be out there a great deal. I am hoping to produce a very important factor yet again plus guide people like you assisted me.

  43. It is beautiful! It would’ve been pretty cheap too if we had made better decisions!


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